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Friday, December 7, 2018

HARNESSING OUR DIVERSITY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (1)

Part of the activities marking Nigeria’s 58th Independence Day celebrations was a Special Lecture which held at the Conference Hall of the Abuja National Mosque, on Friday, September 28th, 2018. The chairman of the occasion was His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, and President-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar. The topic of the lecture was as the topic was - the same as the subject matter of this writeup - Harnessing Our Diversity for National Development, and was delivered by Prof. Auwalu Yadudu of the Faculty of Law, Bayero University, Kano.

Ours is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of about 200 million, and more than 250 languages. Nigeria is also said to be the most religious country in the world. But in spite of our diversity, we attained independence without a violent struggle and fought a civil war without disintegrating. Nigeria is a prosperous country whose development is on the rise.
In his opening remarks, the Murshid of the Abuja National Mosque, Professor Shehu Ahmad Sa’id Galadanchi said that ‘this Special Lecture’ is ‘organized by the National Mosque, Abuja as part of the 58th Nigeria Independence Anniversary Celebrations.’ He said we have to be grateful to ‘Almighty Allah for making it possible for us to gain our independence’ ‘from the British Colonial Administration.’ ‘Freedom of individuals and nations, justice and equality are all fundamental matters in Islam. 

'As we celebrate the anniversary of this independence, we need to tarry a little and speculate and ask ourselves whether or not we have reasons to celebrate. The answer is certainly in the affirmative, yes we have. Those Nigerians who knew this country during the colonial period or a few years after would definitely affirm that our country has made remarkable changes and developments during this period. However, let me quickly add that circumstances had caused us to make some mistakes in our administration; and these could have been avoided. So while celebrating, we should also continue to correct the mistakes committed in the past and make serious efforts to take the country to where it deserves.’

His Eminence, the Sultan delivered his message as the Chairman of the event without referring to notes and not reading from a prepared speech. He informed the gathering that this is ‘the third programme’, in the annual Independence Day Celebrations. In the past, he said the programme was confined to ‘the special Jumu’a prayers’ in mosque, ‘but we thought there should be something more’, so ‘we fashioned out this lecture series to bring together the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, the security agencies and other Muslim stakeholders under one roof, to listen to a lecture’ which will address a common issue of concern among the Muslims. According to His Eminence, ‘such lectures are usually admonitions on what we should do as Muslims for our country, not what our country should do for us.’ Expanding the activities of the day to include a special lecture, the Sultan said, ‘was a right decision, putting the programme together, and I wish to thank the office of the SGF for strongly supporting it and ensuring its continuity.’ 

His Eminence further said that the lecture should make each one of us search for the answer on ‘what should be done for this country to move it forward? We know as Muslims whenever we are gathered under one roof, there is a lot of Allah’s blessing in that place. I’m certain that on this Friday morning, we know and believe that the Almighty Allah has showered His blessings on all of us here, and may it continue to be showered on us and on all Nigerians wherever we find ourselves. Speaking about harnessing our diversity, we all know how diverse this country is, hundreds of ethnic..nationalities. Let me use the word nationalities because they call themselves nationalities, but what we have is one nation called Nigeria, even though they want to be called ethnic nationalities, to be identified with their own background. There are so many religious beliefs, but the two main ones we know are Christianity and Islam, which are still working closely to understand that we are Nigerians first.

‘We are here as Nigerians first; we remember with nostalgia the good old days… I once challenged Northern leaders: ‘Stop talking of Ahmadu Bello; do what Ahmadu Bello did. I also challenged some other leaders, ‘Do what Awolowo did to the South-West, and stop making noise about who was Awolowo… The same thing applies to the south and the good people who were there. These were leaders who believed in Nigeria and who worked closely to make Nigeria a better country. But what we have today are people who look at their local community as the most important thing first, and they call themselves statesmen and elders.

‘We have leaders whom I call dealers; dealers in the sense that they deal with all sorts of negative things, and fuel fire to burn the country down.

‘We have statesmen that I don’t call statesmen, but I call them men of states because they only care about their states and their immediate environment as the most important and don’t care about what happens to other persons in other parts of the country. These are not statesmen, they are the people causing problems for this country because the common man listens to them, they say what they want to say.

‘We have leaders and statesmen who say so many negative things about the country, about the leadership, about whatever is right or wrong in the country. We must check this.
‘We are here as Muslims, not APC or DPD members or any political party,…though many are they. We are here not as naval officers, or army officers, or customs officers who came late and others. (laughter) We are here as Nigerians and Muslims.

‘We are here to chart a course for this country so that it will be better than it is now. development is a continuum; you cannot finish it; you have to keep moving. America is still developing, Britain, Japan, China, they are still developing, so it a continuous process.
‘Every leader comes, does his part, and goes away. You cannot be here forever. Today is Buhari; tomorrow is somebody else, but Nigeria remains. 

‘There were 19 sultans before me. I happened to be the 20th, and I won’t be the last inshaa Allah; there will be others that will come after me. So whatever I could, I would do it with the utmost fear of the Almighty Allah Who puts me here; Who sees what I do, Who knows what I’m going to do tomorrow until I die. So why are we clinging to positions as though we will not die? That is why we are here Muslims to look at those issues, and see what can we contribute to this country called Nigeria, now, not tomorrow. When we do that, we live a happier people than what we used to be,
‘It is important to ask ourselves as leaders and statesmen what legacy do we want to leave behind to our grandchildren, not our children who already know the negativities that happen to this country because of the social media where you see insults, abuses of our leaders who passed away hundreds of years ago, and you still feel as though they are here. 

‘You have access to the social media; you insult people as you want. Columnists insult people and the government keeps quiet. The government must not keep quiet, because that is an issue of insecurity with the approaching of 2019 elections. 

‘So can we as Muslims do things right? This programme is beamed live and is live-streamed all over the world regardless of the number of people here. Therefore, so many are listening to what we are saying and that is why I speak on these issues without mincing words, fearing none but Allah. 

‘What do we do also to ensure free, fair elections devoid of violence? It is heartening to listen to Mr President’s comment that we shall have free and fair elections. Whoever emerges from such elections must be accepted by all, including the international community and Nigeria will move forward. We cannot endure regressing always, taking one step forward, and two backward. 

‘We cannot continue to say everything is alright; no, there is no time in life that everything will be alright; never! if you, as a Muslim, feel everything is right in your life then you deceiving yourself; only the Almighty Allah is always right in whatever He does, in whatever He says. When the elections come, it is only Allah who knows who is going to be the president, the governor…. We don’t know.. only He gives power to whom He wills, and He strips off power from whom He wills; He raises whom He wills, and He brings low whom He wills….’

Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad,
Friday October 5th, 2018

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